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Premier League

'Tired' Emmanuel Adebayor defends late return from African Cup of Nations


Emmanuel Adebayor yesterday presented a fierce defence of his attitude and claimed those who question his commitment have little understanding of the difficulties he faces.

The Tottenham Hotspur forward has always been a controversial character and has lived up to that reputation this season. There was the red card in November's north London derby, the sudden decision to play for Togo in the African Cup of Nations and his subsequent late return from the tournament in South Africa.

Even though Togo were knocked out on 3 February, Adebayor did not come back to London until late on 8 February, less than 24 hours before his side's Premier League match against Newcastle United. This left the Spurs head coach, Andre Villas-Boas, exasperated, primarily because Adebayor is currently his only fit senior striker.

Speaking for the first time about his trip back from South Africa , Adebayor told of his personal negotiations with Togo's president, Faure Gnassingbé and why he was late returning.

"I could have got a private jet to come back to London straightaway but I didn't want to abandon my team," he revealed. "As a captain, it's not a good example. I couldn't abandon the ship.

"It took four days for them to send a plane to get us out of South Africa and to Togo. It's not like it was for some other teams, whose federations sent planes to get them back to their clubs straightaway. I had to call the president of the country to tell him we had to leave. The president then wanted to see us and congratulate us for getting to the quarter-finals, so when we got back to Togo, I couldn't just jump on a plane back to London. I'm the captain, so I had to be there."

Since completing a permanent £5milllon move to Spurs last summer following a season on loan from Manchester City, Adebayor has scored just three goals.

The 28-year-old's critics suggest his intensity drops when he is in the early months of a long contract, or when he would rather be elsewhere.

Adebayor insisted this is unfair. "It's been one of the toughest seasons of my whole life," said Adebayor. "I'm not going to blame anyone but myself because I know I can do better, but you reach a point when you are tired."

Meanwhile, Zinedine Zidane was present at Spurs' 1-1 draw with Lyons on behalf of Real Madrid, who have a strong interest in Gareth Bale.

The Frenchman is now a coach in Madrid's academy but is close to club president Florentino Perez and reports in Spain indicate Zidane was sent specifically to watch Bale.

Madrid are in pole position to sign Bale if he leaves in the summer but the Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy, would demand a fee of up to £50m for his star player.